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Nanaimo historical writer makes fiction debut with supernatural mystery novel

Haley Healey to unveil ‘Immortal Grit’ at book launch at Coach and Horses
Nanaimo writer Haley Healey has released her first fiction book, ‘Immortal Grit.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)

After writing two books of historical non-fiction, a Nanaimo author is now telling a story of her own creation.

On Oct. 16, Haley Healey, author of On Their Own Terms: True Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island and Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island, debuted her first work of fiction, Immortal Grit, at a reading at Coach and Horses.

The book follows two women living in a fictional version of Nanaimo, with one story taking place in the late 19th century and the other set in the present day. Healey described the book’s setting as “a really old character house where there’s maybe some supernatural things happening.”

Immortal Grit was partly inspired by Healey’s previous work, as the 19th-century woman in the novel is based on one of her subjects in On Their Own Terms, Hannah Maynard, an innovative photographer from Victoria.

“She did a lot of really groundbreaking photography and was really progressive in the work she was doing with her photography,” Healey said. “And she was also raising children at the same time and just doing things that a lot of women weren’t doing.”

Healey said she wanted to write a mystery novel because it’s a genre that keeps readers wondering what will happen next and lets them come to their own conclusions.

“There’s sometimes more than one possibility. I really tried to do that with Immortal Grit…” she said. “I just always tried to have [it] really supernatural if you want to believe in that and want to have some fun, but if you want a way out I tried to always leave a way out for the skeptic.”

Healey said after telling true stories in her first two books she enjoyed the freedom of fiction writing.

“Some of the best writer advice I’ve received is ‘write what you want to read’ and so just the idea of writing a mysterious, spooky, supernatural book that takes place in Nanaimo, a city that I really love, was really exciting,” she said.

Immortal Grit is available at Windowseat Books, 309C Wesley St., Well Read Books, 19 Commercial St. and online.

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